Day 1 on the White

A cloudless sky, temperatures approach 70 degrees and the river at a very comfortable level thanks to three generators operating at Bull Shoals Dam.

Less than optimal fishing conditions, according to guide Frank Saksa. But pretty good none the less.

“It’s really better with some clouds or even a little rain, like we’re supposed to get tonight,” said Saksa.

Nobody was complaining after a morning spent within sight of the massive Bull Shoals Dam, the water released from which controls the level of the river. The White – a cold water tailwater – is loaded with trout.

Saksa was essentially fishing the shad kill – where shad are flushed from Bull Shoals Lake through the dam and into the river, setting up a smorgasbord for the waiting trout – with white, 1/32-ounce jigs fished under strike indicators. It a high-water fly fishing rig common on the White.

Ben Post and Dick Kaukas handled most of the morning’s fishing duties. I was self-regulated to photo chores, although I did get my hands on a rod long enough to miss a couple of strikes.

Kaukas hauled in this healthy rainbow (pictured), which had a yellow spot on its belly. Sakas, a 17-year guide at Gaston’s Resort www.gastons.com, had never seen a trout so marked, and neither had anyone else in the boat.

If someone can explain the dime-size yellow spot on this trout’s belly Sakas, Post, Kaukas and I would like to hear from you.

At the White

Arrived at Gaston’s Resort on the White River this evening to find low water and ideal weather.

My friends Ben Post and Dick Kaukas arrived early and fished today and found success using a pink egg pattern under a strike indicator.

Best fish of the day: a 17-inch rainbow subdued by Kaukas.

Stopped for a late pincic lunch at the Spring River (pictured). A few minutes casting from shore produced one strike – enough to whet by appetite.

Tailgate Coffee

Spent about an hour cleaning and re-fueling my single burner Coleman www.coleman.com stove in preparation for next week’s White River trip.

No, we’re not camping, far from it with reservations waiting at the comfortable confines of Gaston’s White River Resort www.gastons.com. The stove is for streamside, tailgate coffee.

The stove and tailgate coffee fixings have been part of my regular fishing gear for several seasons. The recipe is as simple as the idea: 1 1/2 scoops (cir. 3 tablespoons) of ground coffee and water. Heat to a boil. Drink immediately.

My ancient camp/fishing coffee pot finally burned through last year so I was forced to buy a new shiny pot – same 6-cup size but without the seasoned character.

The guts from the old pot were lost years ago. I thought about tossing the new pot’s innards but decided to give the perk system a try. Good. Very good, in fact.

With the little stove on medium heat it hits a boil in about 5 minutes.

The only thing missing was the sound of the creek.

Preparing for Arkansas’ White

I’m preparing for a trip to Arkansas’ White River next week for a few days of trout fishing and, as usual, I’m having trouble deciding what to pack. I’ll probably end up packing twice what I need. I always do.

I’m talking about fishing gear. I’ll carry  along a fistful of fly rods, of course, although if this trip is like most of the others I’ll likely not get more than one from its case. But its better to be safe than sorry so the 8-6, 5 weight Orvis Trident will go, along with the 9-foot Loomas GLS, a no-nonsense workhorse what will more than earn its keep should I be lucky enough to tangle with one of the White’s double-digit size brown trout. And if for no other than sentimental reasons I’m sure to pack my 8-2, 6-weight cane rod; a gift from my friend and hobby rod builder John Durbin. A spinning outfit should round out the rod needs.

The White River below Bull Shoals Dam, where we’ll be fishing out of Gaston’s White River Resort www.gastons.com, is a Jekyll and Hyde fishery; the river’s complexion reflected almost solely by the volume of water gushing through the massive dam. When multiple gates are open the White can be high and wild; the fishing fantastic. When the water release is a trickle, much of the river can be negotiated by a man wearing chest waders; the fishing sometimes technical and finicky.

Most of the guides I’ve worked with on the White say they prefer high water. The theory being the high, fast water pumps more food into the river and the fish feed more aggressively. I prefer wade fishing but there may be  something to the high water theory. The big brown (pictured) was caught – along with more than 20 other rainbows and browns – on a cold March morning last year when six gates were open and the river was at full throttle. It does seem like the fishing is better when the water is high. Or maybe it just that you can cover more water and  hit more good fishing spots.

Finding out is half the fun.

My fly tying skills are pretty basic but I think I’ll try some stream side entomology this trip, thanks to a friend at Cabelas www.cabelas.com, who is loaning me a portable tying kit that he says comes with everything I could possibly need to tie any fly to match any insect on or in the water.

This will be a trip packed with writers, photographers and broadcasters, colleagues in the loose leaf world of outdoor writing. A couple of friends are coming, too, both experienced and highly skilled fly fishermen who have trout fished for years but neither has fished the White. It’ll be fun to watch them.

I plan to post daily from the river. Hopefully with a big fish story.

Thanks for stopping by. And please check out the C-J page at www.courier-journal.com/outdoors.

Seasickness

I’d been salt water fishing a half-dozen or so times from the Carolinas to the Gulf Coast before I first suffered a bout of seasickness. It was off the Florida keys on a warm cloudless day about six miles out in seas the captain described as “a little rough.”

Rough indeed. The sickness stuck with almost no warning and it was worse than I could have imagined. A wave of queasiness then a blast of nausea and vomiting. It was a cycle that repeated until we returned to shore. It turned the day into absolute misery.

It happened again last week off the Mississippi coast although, thankfully, it was a brief bout that didn’t totally spoil the day. One of my fishing partners, however, was not so fortunate. He suffered from a churning stomach early and often.

What causes seasickness? I don’t know and doubt anyone else does, either, expect that it has something to do with what your brain detects vs. what is actually happening. Of course, you don’t have to be on an off shore boat to fall ill. A car or airplane ride can trigger it (motion or road sickness if driving; air sickness when flying). Boat riders seem to suffer most often but you don’t have to be miles off shore for it to happen. (A companion once fell violently ill while we were fishing for striped bass on Kentucky’s Lake Cumberland.)

I’ve actually met a few misguided people who find seasickness humorous, so long as it happens to someone else. These folks all share one thing in common: They’ve never suffered from it.

Over-the-counter medications can help. Getting plenty of rest, eating light and laying off the booze before a trip helps, too. On the boat get plenty of fresh air. Drink plenty of water. Personally, I do better standing.

Should you fall victim to seasickness, there is one absolute cure and one that always works. I learned this from the captain piloting the keys charter many years ago.

“Boy,” he growled. “The only thing that’ll help you is the shade from an oak tree.”